I’m brining Pickle Back …

YSL asked if we were having pickle backs at Sunday’s BBQ cook-off and I initially had no plans. But this insidious question has eaten away at me all day and I decided in fact we WERE to have them.

But a problem; how do you make something that you’ve never tried before and you have no recipe for? A problem – but surely not an insurmountable one?

What’s a Pickle Back exactly? It’s a shot of whiskey (yes, with an ‘e’) with a pickle juice chaser. Simple. It sounds amazing (to me) but Hannah didn’t sound very keen. I doubt Alan Partridge would order one.

It’s an American thing – clearly – but has come to my attention by the excellent sounding Pitt Cue BBQ pop-up in London.

The whiskey bit is easy enough – and for my Southern BBQ quite clearly it should be rye, something like a Sazerac.

But the pickle juice. Now quite clearly to me that needs to be home-made and not from a jar. The idea of drinking Mrs. Hamisha’s by-water is too disgusting to contemplate. Not that people don’t use jarred juice – this impressive blog tried out 4 different “pickle juices” including the juice from a jar of pickled eggs. That’s quite an extraordinary effort.

Their conclusion was that Claussen half-sours had good pickle juice.

But really making my own pickles and juice is necessary. My first thought was that I should just make my normal dill half-sours. But then I thought; would dill-flavoured lactic acid water really be correct. I don’t mind admitting I got my confused face on about now.

Perhaps vinegar pickles are more appropriate?

YKL suggested I should ask for some help from the Twitter account of PittCueCo, they suggested:

“Indeed vinegar is in the brine. Almost 50/50 vinegar / sugar. Not quite. Long live the pickleback.”

Long live the pickleback indeed.

Are they really suggesting a brine of 50% vinegar and 50% sugar? I suppose it’s possible, I don’t really make vinegar pickles usually.

I clarified if water was replied. They replied.

“use some of the extract from the salted cucumbers. Tasty water!!”


OK, so here’s an entirely off-the-cuff pickle back recipe which I will now try out.

Enough salt to liberally cover them
500ml vinegar (white wine would be a good choice)
400g sugar
A couple of cloves of garlic, bashed
pickling spice

Salt cucumbers (Whole pickling cucumbers or sliced large cucumbers), reserve the water.

Bring vinegar, sugar and pickling spice to the boil.

Wait for it to cool.

Add cucumbers to brine in a Ziploc bag. Add the cucumber water. Refrigerate.

Then after a few days, drain and reserve the pickle water and serve with rye whiskey!

Don’t do this yourselves until I’ve tried it first.

Any suggestions welcome.

Update: I just tried this and it seems terribly sweet. Perhaps the salt from the cucumbers will balance this, if not I will add some more vinegar.

9 thoughts on “I’m brining Pickle Back …”

  1. Sounds great! I had a pickle back shot at The Post Office in Williamsburgh/NY but could get the recipe.
    Now I have further questions.
    Which spices do you take? Dill?
    How lond do the cucumbers have to stay in the water?
    As its not the time now to buy the small cucumbers, I must take big ones. are they just for the taste of the juice? can I also take those, which are for salads? must I take out the kernels?
    How much vinegar did you add to unsweeten the juice?
    would be happy to hear from you! Best Sabine

  2. Hi Sabine

    Thanks for the questions, some of which I may be able to answer!

    1) What spices: I used a generic pickling spice (something like http://www.schwartz.co.uk/Products/Herbs-and-Spices/Spices/Pickling-Spice.aspx) which contains coriander, mustard seeds, blade mace, cloves, allspice, chilli flakes, ginger and bay leaf. Probably you don’t need them all. I didn’t use dill this time but if you like the taste, add it!

    2) If you just want pickling juice, they don’t have to be in very long. A day or two should be fine. If you want nice pickles, it will take longer.

    3) Small cucumbers pickle better than large but it would work with large. I’d probably cut them into quarters and remove the seeds.

    4) I don’t think there’s any rules here, just season it how you like. But actually you do want it quite sweet after hitting a shot of whiskey.

    Hope that helps!

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